Meeting of Creditors After Filing Bankruptcy
When you file for bankruptcy, the Bankruptcy Court is going to notify all your creditors that you were required to provide on a creditor matrix. Part of this notification will include the date set by the court for the meeting of creditors. The meeting of creditors (or “341” meeting) is an informal hearing without a judge where you will be required to answer your creditor’s and the case Trustee’s questions under oath regarding your financial disclosures. As bankruptcy lawyers, we often are asked about the meeting of creditors after filing bankruptcy. Here’s a guide to a common meeting of creditors experience.
What to Expect at the Meeting of Creditors
The meeting of creditors can vary depending on the circumstances of your case. In a general small individual bankruptcy with only a few creditors, the experience is relatively standard. You’ll travel to the location and park. The meetings are usually going to be held in the same local building. Normally, there will be plenty of signage directing you to the meeting of creditors once you arrive at the building. Usually, there will be chairs to sit at while you await your scheduled meeting and you may see other people there that have a meeting scheduled on the same day. We advise those of you who have a meeting of creditors with others awaiting their turn to remain quiet. Sometimes the meeting of creditors is being recorded via new digital audio equipment that can pick up noise from outside.
Once your meeting is to begin, you enter a room which is normally akin to a conference room. You’ll probably notice a desk area with a computer and seated there will be the recorder and the case Trustee. Note that the meeting will be recorded. The room will normally have more chairs for anyone attending the meeting. There may or may not be people seated in these chairs. Most of the time, you will see several lawyers and your creditors at the meeting as well as other people who have a meeting and their lawyers. Sometimes your creditors do not even attend.
Once the meeting begins, you’ll be sworn in, state your name and address, and the recorder or Trustee will check your identification. You’ll be on the record so its important to honor the oath of truthfulness. You’ll be asked to confirm that your personal information matches what the record shows and to verify your signature on the paperwork and the date filed. The Trustee will then ask anyone else in the room if there were any creditors present. Some further questions will take place regarding your financial circumstances and may consist of things such as:
- Where you live and work;
- If you pay child support, is it up to date;
- To provide information about any vehicles you have;
- To reaffirm certain debts if necessary;
- If you’ve ever had your wages garnished;
- To provide information about your tax returns;
- If you expect any non-recurring income such as any inheritances, lottery winnings, money from suing someone, or money from an injury;
- If anyone is listed on your bank accounts;
- If you have life insurance, a pension, any stocks, bonds or safe deposit boxes.
- To confirm that your debts and assets as listed in your petition are correct;
- If you’ve recently sold or given anything away;
- If you’ve recently made a payment over $500 in the last few months;
- If you had destroyed your credit cards; and
- How much you paid your attorney for their services.
If there are any discrepancies between your answers and what has been disclosed in your petition, the meeting could go on longer than normal. While it isn’t the end of the world, you’ll need to be forthcoming and address any discrepancies in your petition at this meeting. The Trustee will ensure all the information you’ve disclosed in your petition and your answers are consistent. Once this is complete, your bankruptcy attorney may meet with you after for a debriefing of sorts. In a standard case, this should conclude the meeting of creditors.
Do I Need a Bankruptcy Attorney for the Meeting of Creditors?
At the meeting of creditors, you’re not required to have a bankruptcy attorney but it can be a good idea. The meeting of creditors can be intimidating. It’s understandable that the creditors and their representatives are more or less adversarial at this meeting and are questioning the debtor about all of their financial circumstances. Simply having your own lawyer can significantly reduce the tension.
Who Will Ask Questions at the Meeting of Creditors?
The main person who will ask you questions is the bankruptcy trustee assigned to your case. Most of these questions will be follow up questions based on the information contained in your original petition. Remember, the trustee’s job is to ensure the information you’ve included is correct and then to take that information and ensure all your creditors are paid to the maximum extent possible. Many of the questions asked by the trustee will be in an effort to accomplish this aim. You will be under oath. Sometimes creditors or their attorneys will attend and ask you questions primarily along the same lines as the trustee. The goal here is to verify the information in the petition and ensure no other financial information has been left out.
How Should I Prepare for the Meeting of Creditors?
The best way to prepare for the meeting of creditors is to schedule a meeting or call with your bankruptcy attorney. You’ll want to review the petition and ensure the information is correct and that nothing has been left out. If you do find an error or omission, you and your attorney should promptly amend your petition prior to the meeting of creditors. If you do need to make an amendment, make sure you bring it up at the hearing to the Trustee so it isn’t missed – especially if you file an amendment a short time before the meeting.
What Should I Bring to the Meeting of Creditors?
A non-exhaustive list of things you should bring to the meeting of creditors includes:
- Photo identification
- a Social Security card or other proof of your Social Security number ( or a statement that you don’t have a Social Security number)
- The bankruptcy petition as other forms
- Proof of your income
- Recent statements of any bank, investment or any other accounts
Bear in mind that we strongly recommend speaking with a bankruptcy attorney about anything else you may need to bring. We offer free consultations and can be reached at 419-469-5002. If the means test applies in your case, you may need additional documentation. It’s also possible the trustee will request certain other information or local court rule will require something else to be brought. Due to these complications, we can only speak generally and would need to understand the circumstances of your case to ensure you are fully prepared for the 341 meeting.
The Meeting of Creditors under Federal Bankruptcy Law
The meeting of creditors under federal bankruptcy law is established by 11 U.S.C. 341. The meeting is required to be held within a reasonable time after the an order for bankruptcy relief under 11 U.S.C. 341(a). Interestingly enough, the court is generally not permitted to preside at or attend this meeting under the federal bankruptcy law. In fact, notwithstanding any local court rule, provision of a State constitution, the meeting of creditors can only be attended by an attorney, creditor or its representative, equity security holder or employee of an entity which is a creditor.
At this meeting, the trustee is permitted by law to examine the debtor to inform them of:
- 11 U.S.C. 341(d)(1): the potential consequences of seeking a discharge in bankruptcy, including the effects on credit history;
- 11 U.S.C. 341(d)(2): the debtor’s ability to file a petition under a different chapter of this title;
- 11 U.S.C. 341(d)(3): the effect of receiving a discharge of debts under this title; and
- 11 U.S.C. 341(d)(4): the effect of reaffirming a debt, including the debtor’s knowledge of the provisions of section 524(d) of this title.